Chapter 6 - On-page SEO optimisation for eCommerce sites

In this chapter, Himani Kankaria and Rebekah Dunne dive a little deeper into their top tips for on-page optimisation for eCommerce sites. The same principles outlined in Chapters 1 to 5 of course apply, but there’s some additional considerations if you are an SEO in eCommerce looking to grow organic traffic that will convert.

Himani gets us rolling by tackling a difficult question.

How to do on-page SEO for small-scale/niche eCommerce sites competing with marketplaces?

Marketplaces not only dominate the eCommerce industry, but even the search engine results pages (SERPs). Whenever you search for a product, more often than not the top rankings are dominated by marketplaces’ listings followed by the branded, small-scale and niche sites.

This is one reason why small-scale/niche eCommerce sites first invest in social media marketing, influencer marketing, and paid advertising to grab early success. They believe SEO can either be neglected or postponed as they cannot see results quickly.

But this is not the case. Being a small-scale/niche eCommerce site, here is how you can move forward with SEO.

Why is SEO different for marketplaces & niche eCommerce sites?

Marketplaces

Here are the three major differences between marketplaces vs small-scale/niche eCommerce sites and their SEO practices:

  1. Product Search – People love marketplaces. Many of your customers will first open Amazon, and then search for a product. 54% of product searches happen on Amazon. While in the case of small-scale/niche eCommerce sites, people either buy from you through other channels or resellers, or search for your brand name in the search engines and then buy from you. These customers could be either repeat buyers or referral buyers.
  2. Number of sellers and their marketing – The major differences between marketplaces and small-scale sites are the number of sellers and products. They have millions of sellers and billions of product SKUs. Most sellers invest in creating powerful product descriptions, optimising their product detail pages and advertising their products within key marketplaces. So, marketplaces, as well as sellers are investing heavily in SEO. This is not the case with the small-scale sites. Here in many instances there are a limited set of SKUs and limited budgets to spend on SEO.
  3. SEO team – Marketplaces invest heavily in SEO, and that’s the reason they hire many in-house SEO professionals. A small-sized company does not have the resources to hire many SEOs to manage a site. Sometimes, a consultant with some SEO experience will do. Therefore they need to work smarter with the time they have to optimise their site(s).

How to begin SEO for small-scale/niche eCommerce sites?
Learn the step-by-step SEO process for small-sized eCommerce sites.

Watch our Tea Time SEO session here:

Table of Contents

Step 1: Audit your competitors and your site too

Use relevant SEO tools to identify where your competitors are performing the best and where there may be gaps, from keywords on page optimisation to backlinks. You can of course do manual checks too. Do a search to see if there are any unexpected competitors that dominate the SERPs for your products. They are the ones you’re going to compete with online.

You can of course do manual checks too. Do a search to see if there are any unexpected competitors that dominate the SERPs for your products. They are the ones you’re going to compete with online.

There are many SEO tools in the market place. The SEO Visibility explorer tool from Authoritas allows you to research up to 20 competing domains at a time across 26 major markets worldwide for free.

Once you audit your site and your competitors’ sites, export the findings in either MS Excel or Google Sheets as they’ll help you create your SEO strategy. For example you can see within Visibility Explorer (below) the number of keywords your competitors are ranking for and how visible they are with the Visibility Index score.

Visibility Explorer

Can we help?

If you are looking for an easy way to automate much of the advice given in this guide, then please book a call with one of our platform experts to explore whether we have what you need.

Step 2: Begin with Category Page optimisation

The next step is to optimise your category pages for two main reasons:

  • You need to rank for category pages – Your products may go out of stock, affecting the site user experience and rankings.
  • Marketplaces rank for category pages – Marketplaces are tough to compete with but are favoured by Google for many queries, so to rank for these terms you need to adopt a similar approach.
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While optimising category pages for a small-scale eCommerce site, it is important to consider two things that help category pages rank well:

  • Keep the UX design of category pages similar to marketplaces, but don’t forget to consider the expectations users have from niche/small-scale sites. You know your niche better than anyone else and can probably write more expert content than Amazon’s in-house team as they have so many categories to cover.
  • Add relevant content that has “transactional intent”, taking into consideration that the buyers’ intent on category pages is usually to evaluate making a purchase, so ensure that your content helps users that are window shopping actually make a purchase. For example, you could use the Authoritas’ Frequently Asked Questions explorer tool to find questions consumers are asking about products and brands on your category page and ensure you answer these questions.
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Step 3: Continue with Category and Product Page optimisation

It is still important to optimise product pages for specific product search queries. For example,

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Here is the product page of the niche eCommerce site’s listing:

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These are some quick SEO optimisation tips to rank category and product pages higher:

A) Finalise your keywords

During the SEO audit, you would have produced a list of keywords that a category page of a marketplace ranks for. Utilise those keywords and even augment the list from Google’s related search queries and Google Search autocomplete.

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These are some quick SEO optimisation tips to rank category and product pages higher:

A) Finalise your keywords

Here is how you can pick up the keywords from Google Search Autocomplete. Type a keyword phrase followed by the letter ‘a’ then ‘aa’, then ‘ab’ and cycle through the alphabet. Needless to say there are plenty of SEO tools that will automate this for you.

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B) Create customised but better URLs

The URLs of category pages would always be smaller and keyword-based. But, while creating URLs for product pages, you need to be mindful of two things:

  1. Small-scale sites have limited configured products leading to limited product pages, so customising URLs is not that cumbersome, unlike marketplaces.
  2. Marketplaces have a feature where URLs are created dynamically, so we can take this up as an opportunity to add the keyword with the highest search volume in our URL to increase the chances for it to rank better and get a better CTR.
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C) Add a Canonical Tag

A canonical tag in your code tells search engines to consider the URL specified as the original or master page of all similar or duplicate pages.

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This code should be present across all your website pages, including homepage, category, product pages and more. It is the most common way of dealing with the duplicate content issues many eCommerce sites face caused by faceted search and auto-generated SEO friendly landing pages using synonyms, which often create URLs where the word order is changed, so they look different but the products returned are identical.

D) Optimise your title, meta description, H1, and H2 tags

Use the keywords and topics with the highest search volume within your meta title, meta description, H1, and H2 tags. These are still important.

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In the example below, use a variety of relevant keywords in all of these tags to gain the maximum benefit.

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E) Add detailed product description

Here’s my guide on how to write a persuasive product description in which she shared what you should include in the product description and how you should write it effectively.

Things your product description must have:

  • Product features/specifications
  • Product benefits
  • How-to-use section
  • Product care tips
  • Company or seller information
  • Comparisons
  • Warranty, guarantee, and support
  • Media graphics (videos, images, etc.)
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

F) Add enough FAQs
As mentioned earlier, it is important to have FAQs in product descriptions, so how do you identify which questions to include?

  • Research the questions being asked by consumers on competitive marketplaces.
  • Crawl Google Search for Instant suggestions, related searches and People Also Ask queries (Authoritas’ FAQ Explorer can automate this for you)
  • Look at other Q&A sites or industry forums that rank well on Google
  • Research the questions that you receive from your customers either via email or social media.

G) Add strong internal linking

When it comes to creating text-based content to help customers either get the right information or reach the right product, you need to link to your website’s inner pages.

Internal links are under-utilised and are one way to help increase your visibility in the SERPs. Whether you write a blog or a guide, add the right category, product and content links like L’Oréal Paris has done here. Remember NOT to over do the internal linking – don’t link every keyword on every page of your site!

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H) Add relevant Schema markup

Structured data helps search engines understand the content and purpose of your category and product pages and enhances the way the listing is displayed by the search engines.

You need to pick up the best ones: Product, offer, ItemAvailability, breadcrumbsorganisation, FAQs, review & ratings.

3 thing to keep in mind while optimising for small-scale/niche eCommerce sites

 

  1. Learn from your competitors but have your own strategy.
    Your audit will tell you the strength of the competitors’ SEO. Recognise what they are doing and implement relevant insights into your own strategy based on your SKUs, popularity and resources.
  2. SEO is an ongoing process. As we know the industry is constantly changing and with that we need to adapt to what is happening. Review your results, what has worked, what has not? Then make the necessary changes.
  3. You’re competing with marketplaces that have been doing SEO for years. Be patient, learn from what is working and build on that.

How to do On-Page SEO in the eCommerce sector

We’ll leave it to Rebekah to wrap up this section.

When it comes to analysing your eCommerce pages, there are a few checks you can make and questions you can ask in addition to those mentioned at the top of this section.

Firstly, ask yourself if your content is telling a story rather than just trying to sell a product?

Have you explained how your product can engagingly solve the reader’s problems?

Does your content lead the reader to picture how much better their lives will be once they have received and used your product?

Have you ascertained pain points or questions that keep cropping up and answered these?

Are you images fully optimised? And I don’t just mean compressed with appropriate alt text. I’m talking:

  • Optimised file names
  • Optimised URL slugs
  • The best image file selected (and checked that it is compatible with the most commonly used browser)
  • Images made responsive
  • Image schema markup implemented
  • Images added to your image sitemap

Don’t forget that images can rank too, so make sure yours are working hard.

Are all of your product details completed? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a website where every single product page was finished, which is such a missed opportunity. Finally, is it worth transforming your page into a HubPage? Hosting relevant content on your page for users to interact with is an excellent way to continue building relationships, go into more depth with relieving pain points and even continuing relationships post-purchase.

How to do On-Page SEO in Finance

In cases like this, I recommend creating content that targets these users using the terms and phrases they already know. Utilise internal linking to help them navigate to pages that will educate them on the correct terminology (helping them while making yourself look good, knowledgeable and caring), before moving them to a page that uses the proper jargon and gives them the option to convert.

I know this is an eCommerce section, but I’ve included a specific reference to finance sites as in many cases leading sites are looking to ask consumers to make important financial decisions and transactions online.

To a certain degree, it’s still traditional eCommerce but often without the category pages,  but in many cases the stakes and amounts purchased are far greater than a traditional ecommerce basket and have more important long-term ramifications for the consumer.  For this reason, Google in its Search Quality Guidelines refers to these types of pages as Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) content.

When carrying out on page SEO audits on financial websites, you’ll want to put additional focus on the trust signals, Schema and terminology choices.

You’ll want strong E-A-T signals if you are going to convince an audience to trust you. I would recommend a team page that further highlights the company’s authority in the industry, with a link to this from the page you are reviewing if it’s relevant.

Highlighting awards, membership and positive reviews to reinforce your trustworthiness is essential for websites operating within this sector. So take your time to experiment and find the best place to position these on your page for maximum impact.

Most financial entities will likely want to refer to the correct terminology, however, for pages targeting users who are still in the awareness or interest phase of the funnel, you could test using terms that they know and understand, even if it is considered slang.

Some of these phrases may even have better search volume than the official terminology!

For example on the Transferswise home page, they promote how many people trust and use their services and that they are FCA regulated.

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In cases like this, I recommend creating content that targets these users using the terms and phrases they already know. Utilise internal linking to help them navigate to pages that will educate them on the correct terminology (helping them while making yourself look good, knowledgeable and caring), before moving them to a page that uses the proper jargon and gives them the option to convert.

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